Scientists at the Institute of Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) have discovered the mechanism that causes breast cells affected by the disease to become hard to create, in the form of irregular lumps in the breast tissue malignancies. Excessive hardening of the breast tissue, which is displayed through hard nodules in the chest, is a symptom associated with the formation of breast cancer. In fact, breast tenderness has become one of the most effective methods to diagnose an incipient tumor in the chest.

Scientists, who conducted the study in collaboration with Barts Cancer Institute at Queen Mary University of London, published yesterday in the journal Nature Materials research article that explained the molecular mechanism by which mammalian cells sense and react before the hardening of tissue from its surroundings. The research, led by the Obra Social La Caixa, reveals that the molecules that help cells to engage the breast tissue, named integrin, also serve as a mechanism to control the force with which these mammary cells stiffen the surrounding cells.

So, after two years of research and over 2,000 analyzed cells, researchers have found that the adhesive properties of healthy integrins are different that make cancer cells. When tissues become more rigid than necessary, integrins involved in healthy cells stop exerting force and thus soften the hardened tissue.

However, in cancer cells, the molecules have modified adhesive properties and instead to control and stop the force that makes the cells from their environment, let the pressure uncontrolled, increasing tissue stiffness up to create packages characteristic of breast cancer.  ” This leads to a vicious feedback mechanism that can result in the formation of hard nodules,” explains the scientist in charge of the investigation, Pere Roca- Cusachs.

The importance of the study is, according to the researcher, the hardening of the tissues is not unique to breast cancer but is also present in other types of tumors such as pancreatic, melanoma; or not cancerous diseases such as fibrosis. ” All of these diseases also have serious alterations in the integrin molecules “, adds the scientist.

So, Rock – Cusachs concludes, ” achieve control tissue stiffness could open a new way to fight tumors ” that is associated with the formation of hard nodules. However, the scientist insists clarify that the hardening of tissues not always have to lead to cancer, since the nodules may also develop benign tumors.

Scientist will aim to find out how to act on the molecular mechanism that controls the force exerted on the tissue cells and why integrins affected by the disease have different adhesive properties of molecules healthy cells. Researchers speculate inhibit or block the function of integrins to prevent or delay the hardening of tissues.